Kenneth Ireland, who was exonerated of a rape and murder after serving 21 years in a Connecticut prison, now sits on the state's parole board. “I’ve been on the inside, and I understand the programs, the issues confronting the inmates,” he tells the New York Times. Ireland is serving provisionally, along with four other nominees, until state legislators vote on the appointments next year. Timothy Fisher, dean of the University of Connecticut School of Law, got to know Ireland through work he does on behalf of the wrongfully convicted. Fisher championed the idea of adding Ireland to the board in a letter to Nancy Wyman, the lieutenant governor..
“He has a very cleareyed understanding of the people in prison,” Fisher said. “How so many of them say ‘I didn’t do it,’ and yet he’s no fool. He’s been around them and he knows there’s injustice, but he also knows that there are people who will try to pull a fast one. I think he will be a more discerning judge of character on this board than almost anyone.” At a recent hearing, Ireland joinied Robert Murphy, a retired FBI agent who was the panel’s second member. “What was going on in your life that made you relapse?” Ireland pressed John Rivera, a 35-year-old Hartford man who had been dragged back into the system as a result of a failed drug test. “Help me understand.”
Many juvenile court judges often incarcerate youths, hoping it will teach disobedient teenagers a lesson and deter them from further transgressions. The New York Times says evidence has mounted that locking up juveniles, especially those who pose no risk to public safety, does more harm than good. Most juvenile offenders outgrow delinquent behavior. incarceration — the most costly alternative for taxpayers — appears to do little to prevent recidivism and may have the opposite effect, driving juveniles deeper into criminal behavior. “Once kids get in the system, they tend to come back, and the farther they go, the more likely they are to keep going,” said Edward Mulvey, a psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and author of a study of delinquent youths. After decades when states grew more punitive in their approach to juvenile crime, locking up more youths, more than a dozen have revised statutes or regulations to avoid the overuse of incarceration.
Judges are not always quick to follow. Often the judges most resistant to change are those most determined to help troubled youths, experts say. The Times profiles Judge Herman Dawson of Prince George's County, Md., adjoining Washington, D.C., "who brooks no excuses and involves himself deeply in the lives of the teenagers who come before him." He subscribes to a “tough love” philosophy that venerates hard work, education and personal responsibility as antidotes to poverty, negative peer pressure, chaotic parenting and other forces that tip children into delinquency. His critics include defense lawyers, delinquency workers and parents of offenders, who say that in his zeal to reform youths he goes too far, acting not just as judge but also as prosecutor, probation officer and social worker.
The leader of the University of Virginia governing board denounced Rolling Stone magazine for an article on an alleged gang rape at the university that he likened to a drive-by assault, the Washington Post reports. “Like a neighborhood thrown into chaos by drive-by violence, our tightly knit community has experienced the full fury of drive-by journalism in the 21st century,” U-Va. Rector George Keith Martin said at a meeting of the Board of Visitors. Martin spoke one month after the article sent shock waves through the community with its portrayal of a student whose account of a gang rape at a fraternity house was met with official indifference.
The article since has unraveled, with key elements of the allegation falling into doubt and the magazine’s managing editor apologizing for discrepancies in the account and omissions in its reporting. Maartin said Rolling Stone showed “callous indifference” to the truth and the consequences of its reporting. Martin offered a statement of regret to people at the prestigious public university he said were harmed by the article and its aftermath.” Martin pledged to make public as much as the law allows from an independent counsel’s review of sexual violence issues at the 23,000-student university. State Attorney General Mark Herring named the O’Melveny and Myers law firm to lead that inquiry.
The demonstrations that erupted after grand juries in Missouri and New York declined to indict white police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner reflect problems "not just with the police but the entire apparatus we call our system of criminal justice," Jeremy Travis, president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Bruce Western of Harvard's Kennedy School, write for the Boston Globe. "The long arm of the justice system now reaches deep into poor communities of color in ways never before seen in our nation’s history," Travis and Western say, adding that, "The excessive use of stop-and-frisk, increased numbers of misdemeanor arrests, and gratuitous citations for minor infractions heightened tensions between the police and the people. This chilly relationship between the police and community, especially young minority men, added fuel to the recent protests."
The odds that an African-American male high school dropout will go to prison by age 35 have increased to 68 percent, Travis and Western write. A report of the National Research Council that they edited concludes that the vast expansion of prisons has likely had only a modest impact on crime. They say that, "Although we have learned important lessons about how to reduce crime, including through smart policing, a historic expansion of the criminal justice system in poor minority communities is not on the list." What Travis and Western call hyper-punitive criminal justice policies have flourished while crime rates are at historic lows. Residents of African-American communities, they ask, "must be wondering, “Where is the peace dividend? When will the heavy hand of the justice system be lifted in recognition of the new levels of public safety in our neighborhoods? When will society invest in proven crime prevention strategies that do not cause so much harm?"
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has sued 13 municipalities in St. Louis County, accusing them of violating a state law limiting profits that cities can take from traffic cases, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The law caps traffic court income at 30 percent of a municipality’s general operating revenue and requires that any excess be sent to the state for education. Municipal courts are required to send detailed financial information to the state auditor for tracking.
Koster said he found a “pattern of noncompliance” in those financial statements. He said more cities could be added after December, when more cities’ financial reports will be filed. He said it wasn’t clear whose job it is to prosecute violators. Several of the municipalities shot back, saying Koster unfairly judged them for failing to report traffic fine data before the law required them to. Some criticized him for filing suit without knowing whether they had actually exceeded the cap, or contacting them with questions first. The issue of towns' financing their operations by relying on fine and court fees has been in the news since protests erupted after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson on Aug. 9
A Philadelphia Fire Department paramedic has apologized for posting on Instagram a photo of two black men pointing handguns at a white police officer with the caption: "Our real enemy." The Philadelphia Inquirer says paramedic Marcell Salters said, "need 2 stop pointing guns at each other & at the ones that's legally killing innocents." Mayor Michael Nutter condemned the post "in the strongest possible terms," calling it "reprehensible." "We celebrate the exercise of our First Amendment right to expression," he said, "but there are clear limits, and this posting went far beyond standards of decency. Inflammatory speech or behavior like this is simply irresponsible and could potentially incite others to inappropriate actions."
Salters said on Facebook, "That post was out of anger of what is going on around the world," mentioning the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, black men who died at the hands of white police officers, along with his own experiences with police. The image he posted is from a music video for a song by the rappers Uncle Murda and Maino called "Hands Up," which the men wrote after the deaths of Brown and Garner. Salters said his post was not meant to hurt anyone, including the police, whom he called his "brothers in blue." Yet in a since-deleted Facebook comment Salters said he "never did or will like police."
Nebraska and Oklahoma have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to close a “dangerous gap” in federal drug enforcement by making marijuana illegal again in Colorado, the Omaha World-Herald reports. Attorneys General Jon Bruning of Nebraska and Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma took the extraordinary step of suing another state when they asked the Supreme Court yesterday to settle an important question: How can Colorado circumvent federal law that bans the cultivation, trafficking and possession of marijuana?
The lawsuit will be closely watched by groups with interest in law enforcement, drug legalization and states’ rights, who say the case marks the first time the justices have been petitioned to directly decide a marijuana dispute between bordering states. Bruning said Colorado’s voter-approved pot laws violate the U.S. Constitution, which says the federal government decides which drugs are legal and which are illicit. When the highly potent pot grown and sold in Colorado rolls across the border, Nebraska’s criminal justice system feels the effect. “This contraband has been heavily trafficked into our state,” Bruning said. “While Colorado reaps millions from the production and sale of pot, Nebraska taxpayers have to bear the cost.”